Alex Leslie Literature Poetry

A short history of my writing career

Alex Leslie


We’ve changed
You said to me “your assorted minority identities”
I misheard it, my sordid minority identities
I routinely mishear labels as compliments
this is a survival skill

I don’t remember
not noticing
this skill

You are so articulate
have you considered being
a lawyer instead of a writer?

We collaborate artistically
by swapping mailing lists
like saliva

I am always asked if my intention
is to appear as something else

and/or purism
is a growth stage

I wrote a poem about your gender transition on a train
as it crossed over a river, thinking
why do I always notice my life
is symbolic while I am living it?

Facebook friend lists are dynasties
the old school Russian kind
knives, high-strung people, vodka,

and at least one

I am donating my organ
notebooks to science
words in

A friend thanked me
for publishing a lyric prose
poem about his gaybashing
in Toronto
we did not need
to explain

Affirmative action
and special issues
I am ungrateful

Close brotherfriend splayed out
over the glass bar counter
octopus pickled in gin
underwater bar
the sandblasted glass
before difference

A straight male literary organizer
gave me a bag of Dude Ranch chips,
said it was because I was
a Dude

When you least expect it,
your identity may manifest itself
as a snackfood

We all need to eat
Bite down hard

Submissions emails beginning with the word regret
just to keep going
there are things you need
to erase
before reading

Bite down hard

A pink triangle button is not a genre
Who took care of your future
before you grew into it?

On a good day,
I am a genre

Perfectionism is a sport
best performed in the dark

Away together on an island
we had sex and I woke up,
wrote in the middle of the night
the next morning you said,
why do you always
do that?

Sentences fenced
around my Achilles heel
year that autumn the rain was a faint sarcastic voice
coasting in cochlear months
I couldn’t write a word
it passes in drafts

Invent your own superhero identity
The Burn-Out Phoenix!

I had a bad experience
with the patriarchy
so I defriended it

One day I will read back
issues of our collaboration on Google Cloud
cumulus thigh dream

Memory is a competition for representation
but story is virus

If you quote Mean Girls for long enough to a fellow
Queer poet, they will turn into a character
from Mean Girls

It’s like the gay version of Nietzsche
staring into the abyss

I remember the border crossing scene in Stone Butch
Blues from when I was 20. I remember turning
the book over in the Granville Blenz by a window
drinking hot chocolate gone cold. It was the first time
I looked at an author photograph on a book jacket
as government ID

My first, second and third
acceptance letters were addressed to previous selves

I  keep a copy of each of us
a family portrait

Every time I write a story without consent
I leave home all over again

We’ve changed,
we’ve changed,
but I remember you


Alex Leslie Alex Leslie has published a collection of prose poems, The things I heard about you (Nightwood, 2014),  a collection of short stories, People Who Disappear (Freehand, 2012), which was shortlisted for a Lambda Award for debut fiction and a ReLit Award for short fiction, and a chapbook of microfictions, 20 Objects for the New World (Nomados, 2011). Alex’s poetry  is included in Best Canadian Poetry In English 2014 (Tightrope Books), was part of the Lemon Hound New Vancouver Poets folio this year, and is forthcoming in CV2‘s Queer poetics issue in Summer 2015. They were also shortlisted for the Robert Kroetsch Prize for innovative poetry. Alex edited the Queer issue of Poetry Is Dead magazine and is currently working on a poetry manuscript entitled Vancouver for Beginners.


Poetry editor, Matthew Walsh, interviewed Alex about writing this poem.

Where were you when you wrote this poem?

I wrote the longer text this poem was drawn from on a plane flight from Montreal to Vancouver, where I live. I edited and produced this version in my home, in class and at work. My editing process and rewriting process are much more significant processes than my initial writing process.

Where is your favorite place to write?

I don’t know that I have one. Coffee shops sometimes give me clarity because I’m forced to block out my surroundings, but only when I have the time to write in coffee shops. A solid afternoon in a coffee shop with a partially finished piece can be a godsend. My dog prefers for me to work at home.

Alex Leslie - The things I heard about youWhat motivated you to write this poem?

Another writer asked me, “What is Queer memory?” and I wrote a much longer, rantier text and this is the whittled down version of the thoughts that came through in that original response text. I wanted to respond to that question. I got feedback on this poem from my workshopping buddy Adrienne Gruber, whose new book is out with Book Thug soon.

Where can we catch you reading next?

I don’t have any readings coming up. If you want to see me read check in from time to time to my website Probably the easiest thing is to subscribe to email updates because I normally post readings.